Archive for July, 2007

The 3 B’s in my kitchen all summer long


These three items have graced my table, both lunch and dinner, many times during the last month and a half. When you eat cheese every day, it is important to continue expanding the repertoire… Each of these ingredients pulls its weight as an individual and together they make a stellar combination of salty, sweet, and creamy that results in serious umami.

BEETSBEETS: Since returning home from our Cheese by Hand trip we have focused on eating from the farmers’ market and with a handful of exceptions- coffee, flour/sugar, butter, creme fraiche- we have been successful. The success of this experiment has gone well beyond the original goal, it has inspired variety in our pantry and encouraged me to work on my cooking.

Beets- the things I wouldn’t imagine poisoning my plate with a year ago, (we had the canned variety in my house growing up) have become something that I think I could eat every single day. I love roasting them and then plunking them in tarts, laying them over the top of our salads, etc.

My favorite baconBACON: This pig product has been the downfall of many vegetarians. Many. And for great reason- I don’t need to sing the praises of bacon as a general category- because almost no one reading needs to be convinced that bacon is worth eating. I will run my mouth off about bacon from Tamarack Hollow Farm because it is worthy of the highest praise.

The slices are what I would call medium cut, each is well marbled and the flavor is really heads and tails above others I’ve tried. Tamarack is run by former vegetarians Mike Betit and his wife Elsa. They believe that pigs should be out rooting around in the woods and fields and have a great life right on up to the end.

Bayley Hazen BlueBAYLEY HAZEN BLUE: There is no shortage of posts about brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler at Jasper Hill Farm. Because I’m not currently working in a cheese shop I find that I eat a lot less cheese than I used to. Since Bayley isn’t at the farmers’ market, my JHF cheese intake has plummeted. Shocking and shameful I know but between my visits to their farm and Mateo’s trips to NYC- I’ve managed to procure a few morsels.

Bayley is a milder blue and while I’ve eaten it steadily it never really captured my attention much until our visit to the farm in May. In the Kehler’s fridge there is always a marred wedge of Bayley Hazen that gets lumped up and added to whatever is on for lunch or dinner. Spring and summer are huge salad times for the JHF crew- they have an excellent, local supplier, Pete’s Greens and one of their staple salad toppers is Bayley Hazen Blue. Our visit fell within the season of greens and our salads have not been the same since.

Add comment July 28th, 2007

Bringing Moos and Baas into the Dairy Equation

Interesting article in today’s NY Times Dining Out section about animal welfare and all the parties participating in that movement- animal rights groups, Slow Food, chefs, farmers, etc. One thing that surprises me about the meat debate is the absence of dairy throughout the discussion. Vegetarian dairy consumers enjoy the spoils of the animals and leave the burden of slaughter to the meat eaters when truthfully they are equal players in the production of meat.

Just to give you full disclosure, I am a reformed lacto-ovo vegetarian. Honestly, for ten full years my life felt complete without meat but I never would have made it without a constant supply of dairy products. I was the kind of vegetarian who saw my decision as a personal one- not something anyone else had to take on- based on my desire to not eat anything I didn’t think I could kill.

Unlike most fallen vegetarians, I wasn’t lured back into an omnivorous lifestyle by bacon. Instead it was the halting realization I had during the first week of our Cheese by Hand tour last summer: there is a direct cost in animal life in the production of all dairy products. There is no way around the fact that in order for mammals to lactate they must give birth. No dairy farmer, no matter how big their operation, can support this kind of expansion annually. The males are the first to go- having little use on a dairy farm, and in many cases not all of the females will stay to become part of the milking herd either. This is the undeniable reality of the dairy industry.

Given that I had been working in the dairy industry for three years, this should not have come as a surprise to me and yet somehow it did. I was more than slightly embarrassed to admit to the dairy farmers we visited that I’d been a cheese-gorging vegetarian for so long and yet I did, largely because I respected them too much to hide it. Not only did they not write me off, but often they empathized. They explained that sending animals to slaughter never gets easier for them. Never. In fact, many of them said that it gets more difficult.

Take Karen Weinberg of 3 Corner Field Farm as an example- either she or her husband drives the van with lambs and ewes to the slaughterhouse when it is time for them to go. Watching both of them tend to these animals in the fields and the milking parlor I was compelled to ask Karen flat out what those trips feel like for her. Without hesitation she said that they have gotten harder as she has gotten more organized- because she is less distracted from what she is doing. The beautiful thing about what she does on her farm is how absolutely honest it is. Karen and her family commit to giving those animals the best possible existence while they are with them and they remain present to what those animals go through right up to the end.

Many farmstead producers we spoke with echoed these sentiments- David Finney at Willow Hill Farm, Helen and Rick Feete of Meadowcreek Dairy, Alyce Birchenough of Sweet Home Farm- all of them said that sending an animal to slaughter is both an incredibly difficult decision for them and completely necessary if they are to stay in business. Their response to that difficulty is the same for them- rather than distance themselves from their feelings they focus on providing the best possible environment for those animals.

Labeling cheese as vegetarian feels like a half-truth. It indirectly perpetuates a myth that all animals on a dairy farm are allowed to live out their years until they die of natural causes. On numerous occasions at the farmers’ market I’ve watched people walk up to Karen’s booth, recoil at the site of meat (or worse, ask for it to be covered up) as they order their cheese, yogurt or milk. They don’t understand, or believe Karen when she tells them, that the meat is from the lambs that were born so that she would have milk to sell and to make cheese and yogurt.

I can’t think of a more disrespectful way to treat the people who provide food (not to mention the animals themselves), that we the consumers demand, than to ignore their sacrifices or criticize them of cruelty to the very animals upon which their livelihood depends. Not every dairy farmer out there shares this kind of regard for their herd- we know that from the news stories we see about feed lots and abuse. Lacto-ovo vegetarians should feel the same sense of obligation that they would like meat-eaters to have in seeking producers who share their values on the ethical treatment of animals. Not just the milking animals but all of the animals produced on their farms or on the farms that supply them with milk.

As a result of the time we spent on dairy farms I did decide to eat meat again but, more importantly, I felt compelled to be completely honest with myself about what it means to consume cheese and other dairy products.  Whether I’m consuming meat, cheese, vegetables or grains- I’m interested in acknowledging what was involved in producing my food. You don’t have to eat meat to prove your dedication to dairy- you just can’t claim that you have no part in its production.

Add comment July 25th, 2007

3 Corner Field Farm interview and video!

Check out the fantastic video of 3 Corner Field Farm from a newspaper reporter local to them in Glens Falls, NY.

This is so great for Karen and Paul, the owners of the farm. You can even get a sneak peek at the cellar that they completed construction on just this spring! Look for her new, smoked, aged sheep milk tomme at the Union Square Greenmarket in NY or go online and buy directly from the farm.



Add comment July 18th, 2007

1st Annual UnFancy Food Show is a Success!

UFFS FlyerFirst and foremost- anyone who did not know about the UFFS a week ago Sunday please accept our most heartfelt apologies. It was a raucous success with nine food producers from the Northeast sampling and selling their wares to a crowd of a couple hundred people on a scorching Sunday afternoon at the East River Bar in Brooklyn. Thanks to Nancy Nowacek for our stellar flyer and UFFS logo- displayed here on a lampost in Brooklyn.

Why were Tom Mylan (Grocery Guy), buyer for the Marlow & Sons shop, and myself driven to create this event that brought 9 regional producers and a couple hundred people to a bar in Williamsburg to eat food and drink beer together? We have been to the Fancy Food Show and while we understand that it serves a great purpose for the business end of speciality food (i.e. producers can come to this show once or twice a year and see all of their biggest clients) it lacks the things that brought us to food in the first place: eating and drinking great food with friends and direct contact with the people making the stuff.

   McClures Pickles    UnFancy food learnings  UFFS Setup

Our goal was to strip away the business arm altogether and create more of a farmer’s market vibe with one important addition- BEER. The entire gig was much more Ramona Quimby than Martha Stewart- no brochures or big fancy booths- just basic tables with butcher paper and great food. On Sunday afternoon, as waves of people kept coming, we determined that we are not alone in our desire to talk directly to food producers ovJon from Wheelhouse & Mateo from Jasper Hill Farmer cold brews.

The show had serious HEART. Thank you to the 8 producers who came and sweated it out for the people.Bob McClure of McClure’s Pickles, Darlene and Carol from Gorilla Coffee, Sebastian of In Pursuit of Tea, Jon from Wheelhouse Pickles, Chris from Consider Bardwell Farm, Mateo of Jasper Hill Farm, Jessica from Fleisher’s Meats, Roger Repohl of Bronx honey, Taza Stone Ground Chocolate, and Anna was there representing the Diner Journal (get a subscription!).

Hope we see you at UFFS in ‘08.

Add comment July 16th, 2007


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